From what I’ve observed over the past few months, there are three ways in which people are dealing with the re-opening of businesses amidst the current COVID-19 situation.
The first is to wear blinders and wait it out. Some people are sitting tight until the Covid-19 pandemic ends. They may be letting opportunities pass them by because they weren’t something they would have considered a quarter ago, and felt too out of their comfort zone.
The second is to put on rose-coloured glasses and overpromise to customers, employees, and stakeholders. With the Covid-19 crisis changing rapidly on a daily basis, it’s difficult –– and dangerous –– to make definitive statements that may be true today, but might be irrelevant or impossible the next day or week. Yet, there is a segment of business leaders who want to provide reassurance, but instead provide what can sometimes turn out to be a false sense of security. They promise things that can’t be guaranteed, such as no layoffs, no changes to bonuses, or no price hikes to customers with the hope of keeping everyone calm and focused.
The third, and this is where I prefer to stand, is to dive deep into the current situation, make a quick and fact-based assessment, take decisive action, and then communicate it clearly. For example, as the Covid-19 pandemic started to shutter businesses and shelter-in-place orders came down, I immediately took on a defensive strategy.
I knew that growth plans would be off the rails for this year, and so I pulled the plug on those right away. I spent time going over our own budgets and numbers, took out any discretionary expenses in order to maximize cashflow, and found places where I could invest in the business personally. Throughout this process, I was transparent and honest in communicating these efforts to our staff. Simultaneously, I contacted our clients and our investors to identify their biggest concerns and head off any issues, and I dug into the greater market. I did a survey of different investors and lenders to find out what they’re doing, took stock of the landscape, and then communicated my findings back to our clients.
All of this involved some adjusting of expectations, but by openly communicating – and doing it quickly and clearly – we’ve been able to keep our clients and our employees satisfied.
What have I learned from this? To make communication a priority. It isn’t always easy, and it’s rarely pretty, but having an open dialogue will help to build trust and manage expectations with all stakeholders, both now and once the pandemic ends.
How are you dealing with the current COVID-19 situation?